RELIGIOUS and secularist figures are split over a campaign to remove the Lord’s Prayer from parliamentary sessions, led by a Colac region senator.
Greens senator Richard di Natale announced this week that when Federal Parliament returns next month he will move to end the reading of prayers at the start of each sitting day.
The Deans Marsh-based senator said he would ask the Senate’s procedure committee to amend the standing orders and his Greens colleague Adam Bandt is expected to do the same in the House of Representatives.
Senator di Natale said Australia has a long secular tradition and believed the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer was an anachronism.
Democratic Labour (DLP) senator John Madigan has spoken out against the move, which he said was insulting to the many millions of Australians who were practising Christians.
His views have gained support among the south-west’s ministers of religion, including Pastor Graeme Bradley.
The Warrnambool-based minister said the prayer emphasised the ideals of compassion and humility that all leaders should reflect on.
“Personally, I believe the inclusion of the prayer is reflective of Australia’s rich Judeo-Christian heritage,” Mr Bradley said.
“I would be highly supportive of the Lord’s Prayer being maintained. You can’t deny our heritage and I don’t think it’s right to scrap it because a few people don’t like it.”
Greens Warrnambool spokesman Tim Emanuelle said the separation of church and state was a key ideal entwined with Australia’s federation more than a century ago.
He said the inclusion of the Lord’s Prayer in parliament did not reflect wider society and marginalised people of other religions, as well as agnostics and atheists.
“Australia is a secular society and the Lord’s Prayer being part of parliamentary procedure is archaic,” Mr Emanuelle said.
“The Lord’s Prayer isn’t read out in government schools, for example, unlike some other countries. It’s not in place at universities, or public hospitals, or other public institutions so why should it be enforced in parliament?
“Prayer is something that’s up to the individual if they want to say something or not.”
Senator di Natale told reporters last week he believed the inclusion of ritualistic prayer in parliament undermined the notion that the Senate represented all Australians.
Senator Madigan said the Greens push was a cheap way of grabbing media attention and insulted people of Christian faith.
“The Lord’s Prayer has been part of the parliament since 1901 and to suggest removing it is a denial of our history,” the DLP senator told The Standard.